Back in January we highlighted the rise of drone racing as, well, “a thing.” It’s hard to know whether it should be classified as a game, a sport, or perhaps simply its own category of activity. Whatever the case, however, it now exists, and as we mentioned back then there’s a professional league – the DRL – that’s pushing it forward with the help of some pretty major financial backing.
A few months later it’s become clear that the DRL isn’t playing around, and neither are the people who are interested in its growth. Drone racing doesn’t appear to be just a fad or the latest in a series of realisations about how much fun drones can be. It actually seems to be a growing sport that will generate interest not just among drone enthusiasts and competitors but potentially entire fan bases, and therefore big money interests as well.
With six DRL races slated to take place over the course of 2016 (“Level 1” in Miami has already taken place), it’s fair to say that the leading league is taking things slowly in the early going. However, that hasn’t stopped people from taking notice of the potential for brand exposure through DRL events.
There are already discussions going on, for instance, about brand placement on racecourses in a way that viewers won’t be able to ignore. Additionally, there’s a great deal of potential for sponsorship (Mountain Dew is already spearheading a televised event and sponsoring its own pilot) as well as basic display advertisements on streaming services and more. In short, drone racing is becoming an attractive phenomenon for advertisers, despite its limited range as a sport at this stage.
Aside from advertisers, other outside interests taking note of the rise of drone racing include the people in charge of major online sports books that control the betting for most major athletic events. As of now, drone racing events have yet to receive odds from major bookies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested.
By all accounts they’re keeping an eye on the rise of the sport to watch how it goes in terms of organisation, viewership, growth, and general enthusiasm. It’s also in bookmakers’ interests to analyse the sport for a little while so as to be able to offer fair odds that will appeal to fans but benefit the books.
Nevertheless, the mere fact that major bookies are even acknowledging the potential of drone racing as a sport speaks to its rapid growth. There’s a good chance that there will be odds placed on drone racing events in the near future.
Finally, we’re also beginning to see television networks take an interest in the rise of drone racing. As mentioned, Mountain Dew is already sponsoring an independent TV event (that will be broadcast on Discovery Channel), and we also know that ESPN has agreed to a broadcasting deal for the IDRA (International Drone Racing Association). This is a multi-year deal, and while the bulk of drone racing viewing will take place on the ESPN3 online streaming service, it still represents a pretty major endorsement from the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports.
There’s still a long way to go before we consider drone racing to be a major sport. But considering these developments it’s fairly easy to imagine that kind of distinction around the corner.